“She was born on September 13th, 2003” – Days 9-10 of Europe 2011

20 06 2011

June 19-20th, 2011

Highlights: Suat, Sand Castle Festival, Leman Kultur, Lara Beach

Antalya – The name of a small coastal city in south west Turkey. It’s also the name of my seven year old niece… Antalya Kabani. While this isn’t the sole reason we made a stop here, it was a factor in planning our route. Now I can say I’ve been to the city that is my niece’s namesake… and the poor girl can finally have a pencil with her name on it; definitely won’t find that in the stationary section at Toys R Us!

We arrived in Antalya on the night of the 19th… greeted by our hotel host – Suat. Suat was a very special character indeed. While no description I give will do him any justice, if any of you have seen the movie ‘Borat’ imagine Suat’s personality and voice as practically identical to the main character of this movie… our first moments in this city were definitely more than entertaining.

Being in Antalya has been quite a change from the last 4 days in Istanbul. There is no mistaking that we are clearly in a resort town on the coast. The city is slower, the air is cleaner the energy is calmer… and there is a beach!!! Now we can take a little time to re-charge!

Since we didn’t arrive until later in the evening on the 19th, there wasn’t a lot for us to do in terms of exploring here… so we took a stroll down the street from our hotel in search of somewhere to grab dinner because as usual… we were starving! We ended up at this very trendy outdoor restaurant called ‘Leman Kultur.’ It was a Monday night, at about 11pm and this place was packed! Picture a place where you walk in and there is green grass and flowers all along the ground… and of course walk ways in between. Some of the seating were bean bags, some were chair swings, and some were picnic bench chairs. Funky R&B turned jazz music playing in the background… believe it or not, ‘Wonderwall’ by Oasis actually sounds pretty good when sung with some soul to a saxophone and piano.  This may sound like any other restaurant to you, and maybe it is… but for us being from Calgary Alberta where winter is 8 out of 12 months– having huge outdoor restaurants with this kind of atmosphere is always a novelty. We were served by Salih who was the nicest dude ever… he even downloaded their music collection onto our usb key for us because we liked their tunes so much. And of course, F thinks he looks Ismaili. Gotta be one in every city!  

Even though we stayed in the city for two nights, we only really had one full day here and it was spent doing what we came here to do… visit the annual Sand Castle Festival and relax on the beach. Because the city is so small, it made sense to take the bus to get to the festival… not realizing exactly where we were going though, and not really understanding the language, made what should have been relatively simple, a bit more of a challenge than we anticipated. When we left the house, we didn’t really plan for the beach because we thought the festival would take up most of the day, especially since we started the day at practically noon. Oh and did I mention the other difference between Istanbul and Antalya… the weather. It was 40degrees in Antalya and not only are my strappy tank tops /short shorts days behind me, but my suitcase was mainly geared towards relatively conservative culture. T-shirts, knee length capris, the odd pashmina, thicker tank tops. What I didn’t really realize is while this is important in Istanbul, in Antalya… nobody cares! Grrrr!! I did manage to find one pair of shorts and some summer dresses that I will definitely be getting a lot of use out of. It’s times like this when ‘over packing’ can be a good thing because 1.options are important and 2. You just never know what you’re gonna get.’

Okay, we have our maps, shorts, sunglasses, bus money… I think we are set! Finally we leave the house, only to discover that we aren’t 100% sure where the bus stop is or what bus exactly we are supposed to take. I mean as helpful as Borat was…there was only so much guidance he could give us. Eventually we reach the bus stop and then we wait. The first bus stops in front of us and we ask the driver ‘Does this go to Lara Beach? Lara…Beach? no. ok tessekhur.’ The second bus rolls around…’Lara Bea… no? ok, tessekhur. After the fourth bus parked in front of our stop, we decided – we’re not going to ask, let’s just get on, clearly we are saying something wrong…we are now officially on our first bus in Turkey!

Not realizing ours was the last stop, we started to worry when there were only 3 people left on the bus, two of them being F and me. We asked the bus driver where Lara Beach was and he said not to worry, it was still a few stops ahead. So a few stops later, we get off the bus. Yay we are at Lara Beach!!! Ummm, but no sandcastle festival. We see two ‘security guards’ sitting by the curb chilling and soaking in the sun so we ask “ Sandcastle festival?’ and we get nothing. After a little back and forth broken interpretation, we began to understand each other and the soon learned that we were still another 4km away from where we needed to be! Arrgghhhhhh!!! There was noooooooo way I was walking in that heat. It was too hot even for me – the girl who likes to blast the heat in my car during the summer!

After taking a very short cab ride, we did manage to make it safe and sound to the ‘Kum Heykel Festival’ which is how you say it in Turkish. I wish we had known that 2 hours ago. Not realizing we would need to take a cab for 3 minutes that would cost us more than necessary, and that there would be an admission fee to get in, and that they didn’t take credit card or US dollars, and after all of the drama to get here, we didn’t have enough TL to get in! Clearly poor planning on our part. Note to self… always carry a little more cash than you think you’ll need and assume that most places won’t take cc – even if they do for the most part.

The lady at the front desk was nice enough to let us in anyway since we were barely a couple of TL short and what a sight it was when we walked through the door. The theme was ‘Famous Hollywood Movies’ this year… how fitting for us! These Sand Castles were jaw dropping… so so well done and massive. We saw The Matrix, ET, Alice In Wonderland, James Bond, Jurassic Park, Superman, Toy Story, Lion King and the list goes on. I can’t even imagine how long it must have taken these artists to complete these. And the detail… oh the detail! Even Harry Potter’s glasses were made from sand!

One of the workers at a kiosk inside told us that at night all of the sculptures are lit up and it looks really cool. Seeing as there wasn’t a long list of ‘to dos’ on our list for this city and this was a major highlight, we figured… we may as well just stay close by and check it out at night, especially considering how much of a hassle it was to get here…. not practical to go all the way home and come all the way back again in the evening.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Conveniently enough, the festival was pretty much on the beach, and right outside of the doors were huge white inviting cabanas just screaming our names. We may not have had our swim gear or iPods, or books, or laptops, or anything else we may have needed for the beach… but we had our shorts on, sunscreen and tons of time to kill…. and this place took credit cards! So we got a cabana, some chips, Efes fruit soda and relaxed for the next few hours until the sun went down and the lights went on!! Batman looked great in the spotlight!!

By the time we were all done with the beach and the sandcastles, we had just enough energy to take a taksi home (we had plenty of TL by this time) freshen up and head over to Leman Kultur for a late night meal. If we had been there on a weekend and had the gusto to party, we would have considered staying on the beach because there were a lot of cafe turned clubs along the strip… in particular ‘Angel’ looked like our type of place. Ah well… if we are ever in Antalya again, maybe we’ll check it out!

 Time to get ready for the start of our coastal road trip tomorrow… first stop – Fethiye!!